I Won, we Won: We Beat Makerere, Stella Nyanzi Speaks Out on Beating University in Court

  • by Rodney Mponye
  • June 12, 2020

I am delighted by yesterday’s ruling of Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe. I won this case for myself. My lawyer – Isaac Ssemakadde won this case for me and mine.

We won for the underdogs at Makerere Institute of Social Research who are bullied by Prof Mahmood Mamdani. We won this case for the downtrodden and abused employees at Makerere University who are penalised for daring to challenge authoritarianism and abuse of power.

We won for all those junior academics oppressed by senior professors who are protected by the fat cats running our universities.

We won against the nepotism, meddling and political interference of Janet Kataaha Museveni in the management and administration of public universities. We won this case for posterity, for our jurisprudence in Uganda and for histories of labour rights in the world.

I have waited for this particular justice since 2011 when Prof Mahmood Mamdani started compromising my employment contract with Makerere University. I sought redress and justice from ALL the powerful offices at this public university, to no avail for five long years. I wrote hundreds of letters that were ignored.

I multiple filed appeals for help that were derailed. I sat in meetings where my challenges were dismissed because of the power asymmetries.

Nobody wanted to touch the mighty professor, even when they admitted he was violating my contract. And when the employment violations deteriorated to the point of getting evicted from my office, I boldly staged my nude protest against the systemic rot at MISR, in 2016.

And the predictable misogynistic university unjustly penalised me with one suspension after another. The labour violations escalated! The Appointments Board colluded with Janet Kataaha Museveni to lock me out of my job simple because this first-lady felt offended by my writings.

I appealed once, twice, thrice to the Makerere University Academic Staff Tribunal. And each time, the tribunal ruled in my favour! Makerere University was ordered to reinstate me in my office, pay all my monies, and promote me. Makerere flaunted these orders and continued to deny me my job.

When I sought protection from the police to accompany me to enforce the orders of the tribunal, instead I was arrested and thrown into prison for sixteen months.

And so in 2018, I appealed to the High Court through an application for judicial review of contempt of court. It has been a very long haul. The battle for my labour rights has been very difficult and quite lonely. I know it is far from over, but the present win in court is extremely fulfilling!

I am looking forward to going back to my office, getting all my unpaid salaries, and getting promoted to the position of Senior Research Fellow. I lost at least eight years of promotion because of these protracted violations.

However, it is never too late to catch up for those of us who work hard. I am also looking forward to receiving the total sum of One Hundred and Twenty Million Uganda Shillings as damages awarded to me by court.